Dear companies: Stop trying to be cool on social media and embrace your weird side.

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Zachary Owen Content, Social Media, twitter...

Social media is hard work. It has become something that all companies feel obliged to do but many will often not see the benefits. It is a type of marketing that has been dominated by young exuberant brands that find it to be an incredibly useful channel to get their message across. The reality is that the majority of companies that form the foundation of our economy are not ultra cool brands and therefore find it incredibly difficult when they feel they have to portray an image that simply doesn’t suit them. 

If you are an independent clothes retailer based in New York’s East Village then the likelihood is that you adore Facebook and Instagram. If you’re a company selling double-glazing in an industrial city that isn’t exactly the number one spot on the tourist map then it is probably your worst nightmare. 

It is therefore the million dollar question. How do you make unsexy companies attractive on social media?

It is something that marketers have been trying do over the past decade with very limited success. The fact that is outside of fairy tales, you can’t turn a frog into a prince, so why do we continue to try?

The time has arrived for most companies to realise that they aren’t cool and that they should use social media to reflect their own distinct personality rather than trying to imitate the campaigns of companies such as Apple or Coca-Cola. 

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Somehow you can't see a lawnmower manufacturer pulling this off.

This May at the Digital World Congress in Madrid, Carlos Fernandez who has come to be known as one of the world’s most renowned community managers explained how he transformed Spanish National Police’s social media channels into one of the great success stories of modern online marketing. It is through recognising that an organisation such as the police is not in the same category as a company such as Zara that he was able to carefully craft an identity through humour and witticisms. This served to get across public service announcements in a way that people really engaged with and would actively share.

"And whilst you go crazy, they're stealing your handbag or mobile. Avoid this version of this summer's hit song".

The Spanish National Police account is a worldwide phenomenon with more followers than the FBI. It was the ability of Fernandez to create content that connected with people through self-depricating humour that turned the campaigns run by police into such a success. He points out that “if you’re a granny and you go to a disco, there is no point in trying to be the DJ because you will just fail. If however, you focus on accepting yourself for you who you are then people will love that you have turned up to the party”.

Top companies searching for social media results.

This is fundamentally what many brands have failed to recognise when trying to build their social media presence. It is not a matter of investing in having the most expensive campaign with the best graphics and an endless stream of expensive gimmicks. It is instead about creating content that truly connects with people on a human level.  We don’t like it when people try to be something they are not, which is most likely why we don’t want to engage with brands that think a Silicon Valley strategy is the only way to online success.

Companies are slowly learning that humour and honest content is what will turn them into social media sensations rather than the same old try hard posts. Some community managers have even opted for strategies that don’t appear anywhere in the marketing playbook. 

Tesco Mobile in the UK has often been criticised for having poor network coverage and can take quite a lot of criticism from people on Twitter. The company instead of launching goodwill campaigns chose to fight back against the hate with cutting replies that have won them plenty of plaudits. Humour is the ultimate way of winning people over online. We don’t want squeaky clean brands when could see more human reactions that offer the shock value of coming from an official company page.

This simple comeback gained Tesco Mobile coverage across every national media outlet.

Over the years, companies have got so caught up in the process and technical side of social media that they forgot what their message and core brand is. By pushing the boat out and taking a risk with the content that is posted, there is enormous potential to grow a brand on social media and gain engagement and visibility. It is something that very few companies will be willing to do as they worry of the consequences in an age where even the smallest mistakes are punished. 

This leaves an open goal for many community managers that are willing to take the leap and get creative with their social media. Take a look at some of the world’s most instantly recognisable brands and you will see that most of their pages are often ghost towns filled with vapid content. Now contrast that with the campaigns that people such as Carlos Fernandez have built and you will find examples of those who truly understand the social aspect of social media.